Taz-mania

 

You can't run forever
You can’t run forever

Imagine running down a road forever. You’re running down this road and everything looks nearly identical. There’s some trees. Rocks. Bushes. Birds fly around. Every so often a dingo(…?!) on a motorbike tosses you a literal bone. That’s all Taz-mania is. Forever. You run in a straight line—I guess you can go backward, but why would you?—trying to devour birds. If you stomach the number of birds the level requires, you may even get to run down a road with slightly different scenery. It’s all roads.

Taz hallucinates his food survives digestion
Dying? no, nothing is so easy

Does this sound fun to you? It isn’t. It’s a Mode-7 abomination designed to hypnotize children into seeing the Tazmanian Devil when they close their eyes. Maybe he asks them to buy a Tweety Bird t-shirt. Maybe he asks them to eat their pets. I don’t know. I’m not going to play this awful, awful game long enough to find out what the Devil wants.

I started aiming for oncoming traffic. To let the bus sweep me under and away from this nightmare. But the bus can’t stop the Devil. It just slows him down. The Devil gets right back up and starts running again. He craves that bird flesh. He wants to crack those little bones in his teeth. He may fall in the middle of the road and start vomiting up everything he’s eaten, but he’ll never stop. He’s going back for seconds, thirds, fourths…it’s All You Can Eat on the open road, and the Devil is never full. He says he’s stuffed, but HE LIES.

I wish someone would "stuff" me into a woodchipper
I wish someone would “stuff” me into a woodchipper

Maybe you love this game. Maybe you close your eyes and imagine yourself flying down that blocky road, mouth agape and claws reaching for the winged food all around you. Maybe you already let the Devil take you and you ain’t noticed yet.

You got that Taz-mania.

Body image issues
Please let this end

Super Star Wars

... didn't know that licensed movie games were supposed to be awful.

Super Star Wars starts out innocuously enough. You get your scrolling text from A New Hope about something something galactic whatever. You get the shot of the Star Destroyer shooting at the Corvette (you read the second sentence and you were like “oh, fuck this guy who doesn’t know anything about Star Wars” and then I start dropping ship knowledge… whaaaaat?). You see the pod jettison down to Tatooine. Then you play as Luke Skywalker just dicking around on sand dunes with a blaster that, if you upgrade it enough, shoots homing missiles.

So close.

It's a lot less impressive if you kill the sarlac before you even know about the force and you have a missile gun. Seriously.

But whatever. Luke’s hair wafts in the wind while you run. It’s pretty for an SNES game and the controls are tight. You platform. A lot. And it’s surprisingly tough. It’s probably worth playing through in some respects, but of course the problem with a licensed game like this is that I know how it ends, and I’m not particularly inclined to see it through.

It's pretty faithful...

On the other hand, I think I would be so happy to play this game it if came out now. Advances in physics engines mean that stuff like the force are really cool to see on screen. It’s sort of funny when you think about how the movies were made on these scant budgets with all of these primitive special effects that almost everyone seems to universally believe is better than the newer digital counterparts. But then I play this and I gotta tell you, mode 7 just doesn’t cut it. You sort of can’t go home again.

Toshi Station, here we come!

Anyway… I think we’re all aware that the greatest Star Wars games of all time have very little to do with the movies themselves. I’m talking about Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy (still my favorite), X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing VERSUS Tie Fighter, and I guess the Republic Commando game is supposedly pretty awesome. Star Wars has a fun universe, it’s always neat when you get to play in it without the movies getting in the way.

But I guess the sad part of these games is that they’re a few out of thousands of licensed movie games that are pretty good. I would have been more than content with this when I was a kid. The only reason I’m not super content with it right now is because I have four other reviews to write and it’s kinda hard. Unsurprisingly, that probably still makes it one of the best games I’ve reviewed for the site.

Anyway, it’s Star Wars. You’d probably like it if you’ve got a controller, a little patience, and an afternoon.

Street Racer

Street Racer is one of the better Mario Kart clones out there. A dubious honour, I know, but a rare one nonetheless. It also borrows quite liberally from Street Fighter, which is not a bad thing.  Shameless rip-off though it may be, Street Racer has the muster to pull it off. Catchy tunes, consistent art style, well-animated sprites, effective use of Mode 7 graphics, satisfying combat, and a good driving “feel”, coupled with everybody’s favourite – a classic 90s staple – a character select screen based on offensive racial stereotypes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to introduce our band of misfits, in order of appropriateness:

HUMAN RACE:

The Races of ‘Street Race-r’

SURF
Hot Blonde Californian Bitch

Complete with inflatable “funbags”, oh, and look, she has good “handling” too! Next!

'Eyyy...how YOU doin'?

RAPHAEL
Greasy Italian Sleaze With Possible Ties To Organised Crime

He punches like a Mafia man, that’s for sure. Leather jacket, slick hairdo, massive “doof doof” speakers in the back, oh, and look, he drives a Ferrari. Like every Italian has a Ferrari. [See also: Super Mario series]

BIFF
Neo-Nazi Skinhead From That Laurence Fishburn Movie

How many games have a thuggish bald bloke named “Biff”?  Probably every single beat-em-up ever.  In a strange twist of irony, skinheads were heaps into reggae, ska and rocksteady even though they liked to bash black people, the originators of said musics. Which brings us to…

Free the slaves!

SUZULU
Ugly Black Savage Fraught With Piercings, Wearing Animal Skins

He’s called “Su-Zulu“, get it?! It’s like ‘Suzuki’ the car brand mixed with the Zulus, those Africans with the spears and…nevermind. [See also: Resident Evil 5]


HELMUT
The Red Baron, Basically, With a Dash of Colonel Klink

How many games have a character named Helmut? And what does that name even mean? Is it like “Hell-mutt”, a hound from Hell, or is it just German for ‘helmet’? Either way it seems every second German is a triplane fighter pilot with a twirly moustache and a monocle. Does he wear the goggles over his monocle?

MWAHAHAHAHAHA! You will perish most honourably!

SUMO SAN
Obese Japanese Sumo Wrestler With Unparalleled Martial Skill

Sumo-san literally translates as “Mr. Sumo” in our language, which is English. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from videogames, it’s that Japan is populated entirely by samurai, ninja, and sumo. They’ve got all the time in the world for fighting, and sometimes, kart racing. If they wanted to make this really accurate, they’d have put a man in a suit on a train. [See also: Street Fighter]

ALLAH FORBID YOU SHOULD HAVE ANY DAUGHTERS!

HODJA
The Sultan From Aladdin, And Persian Rug Salesman

Arabs all wear mushroom hats, puffy pants, and fly around on magic carpets. It’s the truth!

And last, but not least, a personal affront to green people everywhere:

FRANK
HIS NAME IS FRANKENSTEIN YOU IDIOTS

Do game developers think they’re being clever every time they stitch together a Frankenstein knock-off and call him “Frank”? Get it, the name “Frank” is a normal guy’s name and it’s in the word “Frankenstein”?! These people are a waste of God’s breath. AND IT’S FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER YOU DUMMIES FRANKENSTEIN WAS THE GUY THAT MADE HIM

All this racism is making me angry, I mean hungry. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to throw another shrimp on the barbie.

Me in my backyard.

Pilotwings

Geez, sorry! Nice greenroom you've got there, Bruce Lee.

I have atrocious eyesight and could never be a pilot. Luckily for me, I never had any desire to be a pilot and instead wanted to be a giant nerd with big stupid glasses, so that worked out okay. It’s why I’m writing a review of the SNES game Pilotwings instead of flying an actual plane. That’s the only reason.

Pilotwings for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System* is yet another Mode 7 offering, so it’s already got strike one from me (out of twelve possible strikes, like baseball x4). I’ve talked about it before, but I just plain don’t like Mode 7 graphics—they’re all blocky and make me miss Mode 6 graphics. I think that was the best mode of graphics. 6. I’m too young to appreciate Modes 1-5 and too old to understand that sexually confusing Mode Gaga. I almost made a P-P-Pilotwings joke here but decided against it. Kind of?

When you’re playing a flight simulator, what’s your favourite part? If you said “landing,” then you’re entirely unlike me but will probably enjoy Pilotwings in a way I did not: a little. Yeah, I don’t like Pilotwings. First I’m trying to land a plane, but—oh no!—I missed a floating green ball! Damn! If only I’d been able to slowly turn my ponderous plane in the proper direction and hit the Loc-Nar, then maybe that guy wouldn’t be so disappointed with me. But no, I miss the Loc-Nar. But never fear, I don’t miss the ground! Oh no, I hit that thing right on target. Except not, since I suck. I can’t even crash right. Dale Earnhardt would be so disgusted.

How about skydiving? It’s too bad I accidentally spun off course, and now I don’t even know where the course is! I’d get back to it, but I have zero clue what direction it’s in and all I can see in the game is brown. Just a giant patch of dirt silently awaiting my incoming failure. Here I come, failure! Headfirst! The same way I came into the world to begin with! WHOOOO *crunch* (that was the sound of the doctor eating a carrot—he is health-conscious because he is a doctor and recognizes the importance of proper nutrition even as he is busy delivering babies. He is a true American hero, unlike G.I. Joe, who was Hawaiian.)

In conclusion, this is the last sentence I’m going to write for this article, with the exception of any footnotes.

* Ohhh! Now it all makes sense!

On the Ball

“Hello, hello (¡Hola!)
I’m at a place called ‘Vertigo’ (¿Dónde está?)
It’s everything I wish I didn’t know
Except you give me something I can feee-lll!
Feeee-EEE-llll!”

~ Bono

On the Ball is the recipe for vertigo. There are scant few videogames on God’s green Earth that make me sicker than this one. There’s the obvious case of Mode 7-sickness in NHL Stanley Cup which I’ve already touched upon; there’s indie darling Tag, which has one running up walls and under ceilings like Peter Parker on pills; and then there’s Gears of War. There are two very important differences between On the Ball and Gears of War: one is that Gears of War is actually good; the other is that Gears of War makes me sick after five hours of continuous play – On the Ball by contrast, makes me sick immediately.

BLURGGGHhhh!!!
Three buckets* of vomit were expelled before the taking of this screenshot.
* 4 Litre ice cream containers.

(I am of course referring to sickness in the motion sickness sense; the kind that you feel in the pit of your stomach, otherwise I would have brought up the obvious example of watching my own head get sawn off slowly and deliberately by a paper-bagged zombie with a chainsaw before watching blood spray forth from my neck hole and my lifeless body slump to the floor in Resident Evil 4. The on-screen message that follows declaring “You Are Dead” is banging you over the head with it, really, if you even had a head to be banged over with anymore.)

Exhibit A:

On the Ball is like one of those tilt-ball contraptions that fit in the palm of your hand. Whereas most developers deem the tilt-ball simulator to be mere mini-game material, these savvy fellows saw fit to make a full-priced game of it. One would be forgiven, then, for expecting that these boys were all over this whole tilt-ball ‘thing’; and would deliver one of the most finely-crafted tilt-ball simulations ever committed to cartridge. One would be forgiven, but ultimately, be wrong.

The title is about all they got right: "On the Ball" sucks some serious nut.

The ball doesn’t roll like a ball ought to, nor does the level ’tilt’ so much as it turns on a dime. The ball simply drifts downwards as the level rotates around it. I can think of at least two examples of this done ‘right’, or at least better, than it is in On the Ball, neither of which comprise the entire experience they appear in. One is the special stage from Sonic the Hedgehog (which has been sorely missing from Sonic games since Sonic & Knuckles, and which will hopefully make a triumphant return in Sonic 4), and the other is the tilt-ball mini-game from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (which admittedly, gets really old really fast).

The only foreseeable benefit of playing this game would be if you had accidentally swallowed poison, or overdosed on drugs, and consequently needed to purge the contents of your stomach immediately.

Otherwise, if you’ve never been sick from a videogame, please, please, PLEASE don’t let this be your first!

NHL Stanley Cup

Welcome, Richard, to the Mode 7 Program!
POSTCARDS FROM HELL

From the diary of Richard Ashcroft, circa July 19, 1993:


Dear Diary,

It’s been seven weeks since I entered the Dome.  I think. I haven’t seen the sun in so long.  Seven weeks without food.  I’ll be dead in eight, doctors say.  I’ve been licking ice off the floor for sustenance.  I don’t even know if it’s real ice.  I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not anymore.  I keep seeing things.  People playing hockey, mostly.  Except I’m like this camera, floating and zooming around the rink.  Oh, it’s so fast, pulling in and out like an elastic band.  I feel like throwing up.  I always feel like throwing up, but I can’t.  There’s nothing left to chuck, just stomach acid bubbling and burning against the back of my throat.  It’s like, every fibre of your being wants to scream, and then you realise: you have no tongue.

OmigodomigodomigodomigodomiguuuUUURRRGGGH-gllluuUUKK-GLLKK--

Are the others still in here, alive? I’m convinced I’ve gone quite mad.  I can see me down there, shuffling and tripping on the ice, but I’m not in there, I’m not!  I’m still here and all I can do is watch.  Watch them thresh about with sticks in their fruity colours.

What am I even doing here?  Is this some kind of sick practical joke?  What if everyone else has already gone home and forgotten about me?  When I signed up for the Mode 7 program they told me it would be a simulation, just a bit of a lark.  They never told me it would be like this.  All I wanted was the hundred quid they promised in the advert.  Oh well.  Just one more week and it’ll all be over, one way or another.

I wrote a pop song yesterday.  I might record it if I ever make it out of here:

No change I can't change I can't change I can't change / But I'm here in my Mode / I am here in my Mode / But I'm a million different people / From one day to the next / I can't change my Mode, no, no, no, no, no-oo-oooo...

The Devil has a new number.  It’s my number: 7.

Mode 7.

NCAA Basketball

The 'A' is for ACTION. The other 'A' is for ABSENCE OF.
Mode 7 Things I Hate About You

FANTASTIC! ANOTHER BASKETBALL GAME! Man, it’s like Christmas came early this year and I got every single thing I wanted, assuming I wanted to get dizzy watching pixelated dudes throw a poorly-rendered basketball at one another while the screen rotated like I was spinning in a circle. If this game was what real basketball was like, the court floor would be covered with my vomit; I’d try to eat entertaining foods to make this as pleasant as possible for everyone involved. Hey look! Whole Gummi Bears! Bouncing here and there and everywhere! The contents-of-my-stomach-covered adventures beyond compare!

Great, now I’m hungry.

So apparently NCAA stands for National College Athletic Association, which I technically did not know but certainly could have guessed if I’d bothered. That means that I’m not even poorly controlling real basketball players* but merely their yet to evolve incarnations—I’m controlling them in their formative years, and their formative years are leading them to be stumbling, ball-losing motards. I’m sorry dudes, but your scholarships are on the line, and so now you will have to learn a trade. From what I’ve seen welding looks really amazing. Heat! Sparks! Sweet masks! It’s like being a really warm knight.

At some point I need to talk about the game, and this is that point: I never really felt as if I was in control of the players. I was aware that I was moving people around and maybe influencing their actions, but it was influence in the same fashion that Bill O’Reilly is influencing my opinions on anything. Like, I’m aware of what he’s saying, and I recognize them as words in my language, but they make so little sense I have trouble putting them into any meaningful context. My basketball players treat me like a drunk Bill O’Reilly, screaming at them from the sidelines about how I didn’t sort of maybe ok kinda implied they should shoot an “abortion doctor” (or some hoops).

This game makes full use of that POWERFUL TEXTURE MAPPING JUGGERNAUT known as Mode 7; I’ve never liked Mode 7, not even a little. I think it looks like crap now, just like I thought it looked like crap back when I was a kid, and will likely think it looks like crap in the exciting future of SNES games. I’ve no doubt it’s a technical achievement of some sort, I just don’t care. Personally, I’d prefer some nicely rendered static backgrounds; this is my personal opinion, but don’t let that stop you from telling me I’m wrong, since the person who first said “opinions can’t be wrong because they’re opinions” was a complete moron.

I’m the wrong person to review sports games. You probably like this game and think it’s a lot of fun—I don’t. I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you by reviewing a game I enjoy as if I hate it, and then we’ll be even and you can stop sending me death threats that you never bother carrying through since you’re too busy playing Madden or NHL 8K7B/6.

*Dear college basketball players, I totally respect you or whatever so please don’t beat me up for denigrating your game, lives, and general intelligence.